Military History of Australia During World War I - Egypt and Palestine - Battle of Magdhaba

Battle of Magdhaba

Following the victory at Romani the Anzac Mounted Division pushed the German and Ottoman Army back across the Sinai Peninsula. The German and Ottoman forces had been put on the defensive and retreated from Bir el Abd on 12 August 1916 towards the Egyptian–Ottoman Empire frontier, the day after being attacked by the Anzac Mounted Division. An Ottoman rearguard action was fought at Bir el Mazar before the German and Ottoman force retired to El Arish in September. In the Maghara Hills in October 1916 a strongly defended position was attacked by an Allied force based on the Suez Canal. Both Bir el Mazar and Maghara Hills positions were subsequently abandoned. During November, an aerial bombing raid by 5 B.E.'s and a Martinsyde, the largest air attack yet organised in the East was carried out on Beersheba. By the beginning of December the railway had reached Bir el Mazar and with the development of lines of communications, garrisons, support and services, it became possible to plan for an advance to El Arish.

On 21 December after a night march of 30 miles (48 km) the Anzac Mounted Division commanded by Chauvel entered El Arish, which had been abandoned by the German and Ottoman force, who had retreated to Madghaba where the mounted force won a fierce daylong engagement against strong well constructed defences manned by determined defenders.

Situated on the British right flank, the Egyptian outpost of Magdhaba was some 18 miles (29 km) to the south east into the Sinai desert, from El Arish on the Mediterranean coast, was the last obstacle standing in the way of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force's advance into Palestine.

Chauvel with the agreement of Lieutenant General Philip Chetwode commanding Desert Column who had arrived that day, set out to attack the Ottoman forces at Magdhaba with the Anzac Mounted Division. Leaving at about midnight on 22 December, the Anzac Mounted Division was in a position by 0350 on 23 December, to see enemy fires still some miles away at Magdhaba.

With the 1st Light Horse Brigade in reserve, Chauvel sent the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade to move on Magdhaba by the north and north–east to cut off the possibility of retreat while the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade followed the telegraph line straight on Magdhaba. The 1st Light Horse Brigade advanced mounted to the attack but fierce shrapnel fire forced them to advance up the wadi bed. By midday all three brigades and the Camel Brigade, with Vickers and Lewis Gun sections and Honourable Artillery Company artillery were hotly engaged. Aerial reconnaissance to scout out the Ottoman positions greatly assisted the attack, although the Ottoman positions were well camouflaged.

When the fighting began the going was tough and by 13:00, after hearing that the Ottoman defenders still had possession of most of the water in the area, its claimed Chauvel decided to call off the attack. In any case, after a telephone call between Chauvel and Chetwode pressure was continued to be pressed and an attack by all units took place by which time there was no doubt that the Ottoman defenders was losing the fight. Both the 1st Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigades made progress capturing about 100 prisoners and by 15:30 the Ottoman defenders were beginning to surrender. By 16:30 the Ottoman garrison surrendered, having suffered heavy casualties, and the town captured. The victory had cost 22 dead and 121 wounded.

Read more about this topic:  Military History Of Australia During World War I, Egypt and Palestine

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